Inspiration and Hope

By Dr. Larry Pfaff

Recently I received an email message that told the story of a person who had overcome adversity. This was one of those messages that had been forwarded over and over by many people. It made me think about how important inspiration and hope is in our lives.

With the pressures of daily life it can be difficult to be optimistic. In addition, we have to deal with the world situation, the economy and potential job loss. Feeling inspired and hopeful is not easy. Psychologists know that one of the best ways to learn is through observation of others. That's why we can feel inspired by the actions of others to change our own lives. I gain my inspiration from the everyday people I know who have done things that I cannot imagine doing myself. I think of these people as master teachers, because I learn so much from their example. I would like to tell about one such person.

In the early morning hours of August 12, 2000 my brother was riding his bicycle near his home in Houston, Texas. As he approached a green traffic light a minivan went past and turned in front of him. He put the brakes on, the bike slid and then he fell. The next thing he knew he was lying on the pavement unable to move any part of his body.

At one point, he almost died because his blood pressure was down to 70 over 40 and he was in shock. He spent a week in the intensive care unit and seven long weeks of rehabilitation therapy. He was in a wheelchair. He couldn't walk, but the strength had come back in his arms. He had to learn to walk and eat all over again. He had to relearn everything. By January, he had enough ability to drive his car again and he started working.

Since then he has continued to work hard and has come full circle with his occupation. His attitude throughout has been, "Well, I can't change what's happened, I'm showing progress, so I may as well get to work. What else can you do? I could sit around and be miserable about it, but that doesn't change the situation. What's going to change things is to work and do all I can to come out of it."

On December 10, 2001 the Olympic Torch Relay made its way through the streets of Houston. One of those to have the honor of holding the Olympic Flame high was my brother, chosen through a call for nominations program for his ability to inspire others and make a positive difference in people's lives.

Now, what my brother has accomplished is truly miraculous. But, I believe inspiration also can come from people we meet on a daily basis. It can come from a hospice worker who faces death on a daily basis yet maintains an upbeat attitude. Or, a single mother raising a family on little money while being positive and joyful with her children. What each is doing is remarkable in its own way. They are facing life and dealing with it from an attitude of hope and optimism. That can be truly inspiring.

So, when you are feeling frustrated by your life, look around. You will probably find some people who are doing some pretty amazing things. They just might give you a little inspiration and hope to do bigger and better things yourself.

Please send any comments, questions or suggestions to Dr. Pfaff at

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